Nairobi, Masai Mara National Reserve, Mara River, Mara North Conservancy
Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.
From July to October, the great wildebeest migration fills the Masai Mara, as do the bulk of the Mara's annual travelers. But from November to June, the Masai Mara continues to brim over with an astonishing abundance of wildlife, along with fantastic opportunities for private walking safari, horseback safari, luxury mobile camping, and thrilling nighttime drives. On a 10-day safari outside of the migration months, the Masai Mara is as authentic and surreal as ever.
Nairobi – Overnight in the Colorful Capital
From your balcony at your first hotel, you will enjoy the juxtaposition of Nairobi as the city skyscrapers provide the backdrop to a savannah that is dotted with elephant trunks and giraffe necks. The wild landscape contrasts the urban core of the city, and as you are picked up from Nairobi International Airport, it is a short transfer to your hotel. This first evening is all about relaxing and preparing yourself for the safari adventure to come, and this property is ideally situated with vistas over Nairobi National Park, along with its proximity to Nairobi Wilson Airport for your early-morning flight to Ol Pejeta.
Day 2 - 3
Ol Pejeta Conservancy – Fly-In Wild Rhino Safari and Chimpanzee Experience
Your small plane will cruise alongside Mount Kenya, Africa's second-highest mountain, before descending onto a rugged savannah that will immediately evoke your firm impression of the wilderness. The odd elephant is seen near the airstrip, and on the short drive to your first camp, you will likely encounter buffalo herds, scattered impala, and an array of different antelope. The conservancy's great attraction hides nearby, usually amongst the thicker clumps of low-growing bush. On your game drive, the trackers will not take long to locate this attraction. At first, it's a thrilling glimpse, a snatched view of a horn that raises your heartbeat. Soon you see much more as three wild rhinos emerge from the bush to inspect your safari vehicle. As the endangered giants walk your way, there is a brief moment of calm as the presence of the rhinos quickly humble you as the experience itself is too real even to reach for your camera.
Ol Pejeta's rhinos are famous across East Africa and rightly so, for it is here that the conservation battle has had great recent successes. Later on during the drive, you will see another rhino that is even larger and stockier than those encountered before. Bashfully, it will appear from the bush before it walks on, one of only three Northern white rhinos that exist in the wild. All three of them are located here in a last-chance attempt for mating and the preservation of the species. You will continue your drive and admire a lion pride as it lazes away the afternoon while a nearby elephant herd redefines your notions of size.
Giraffe, zebra, hippo, buffalo, impala, hyena, leopard are all present as Ol Pejeta quickly introduces you to the alluring diversity of African safari. You will see all types of animals during both your game drives and your bush walks, and further inimitability comes at the chimpanzee sanctuary, where rehabilitated primates will bring you a surreal experience. As you take in the details, the comparisons will slowly become absolute as you take in the curled fingers, curious facial expressions and eyes laced with emotion as they walk upright on two legs. This time spent with the chimpanzees will be incredible and humbling, and another true highlight from these first two days of safari.
Day 4 - 5
Masai Mara National Reserve – Iconic Big-Game Safari Along the Mara River
Your flight will land in the Masai Mara, and the abundance of mammals is immediately revealed. Thompson's gazelle are scattered across the plains, bounding around with grace and dexterity. Wildebeest gather in small herds, perhaps a hundred rutting and grazing their way across the short grass. Sometimes you will pass individual zebra families, usually five to eight of them that did not follow the migration but occasionally you will also pass larger herds with upwards of a thousand zebra huddled together in a mass of black and white. On the open landscape, the grasslands extend as far as the eye can see which makes it easy to spot the giants; elephants marching along the horizon, clusters of buffalo, the giraffe that walks so distinctively, and perhaps the odd hippo out of the river. Whichever month you visit the Masai Mara, there is always this immediate impression of abundance.
Your next safari property overlooks the Mara River in the Mara Triangle area of the National Reserve. Your luxurious tent will have unending views over the plains, and it is rare that an hour will go by without another animal ambling past your spacious ensuite tent. Canvas walls ensure nature's soundtrack is heard throughout the night, with the lion grunts and grazing antelope an exciting part of the experience. After landing in the Mara, you will spend the following day on a game drive that will continue until dusk. Take a picnic and eat lunch beside the river and admire the antics of a hippo pod before following the trails around the water, where the profusion of life is at its highest.
The majority of predators do not follow the great wildebeest migration as only the hyenas and vultures have the stamina for the journey. Furthermore, the resident cats must stay and protect their home range. When the wildebeest and zebra pass through, the availability of food allows the cats to stray slightly from their realm, but this is unlikely to be more than 15 miles. So when you visit the Masai Mara outside of the great wildebeest migration, the same predator population can be found during the game drives. A layer of tension enhances the scene as when there is less food around, the clashes between pride and battles over food scraps become more intense.
Along the river, you will likely find a lion pride hiding in the high grass and waiting for a zebra herd to come for a drink. A cheetah is often perched on a rock to survey the scene before walking past your vehicle with indelible grace. Up ahead there is likely a strong pride of 20 lions, with five cubs frustrating their parent’s attempts to sleep. High in the tree, you will see something moving. The leaves will flicker as the leopard descends, bounding down the tree and walking past the vehicle with her spotted brilliance. All these are just the start of the big cat sightings, and you will quickly lose count of how many you've seen. As your Masai Mara safari continues, you are likely to see them in full hunting mode.
Mara North Conservancy – Hot Air Balloon Above the Mara and Mobile Camping Experience
Your safari camp is perfectly situated for a hot air balloon safari, as it's just a short drive from the launch site in the west of the reserve. You will travel skyward at dawn as a bulging African sun pierces the horizon, and the herds are dappling the grasslands below. Admire the Mara River as it slices through the landscape to twist and turn beneath the layers of scorched grass. The scale of it all is unraveled as you float across the Masai Mara as the vast landscape stretches out beyond the horizon in every direction. Panoramas complement the intimate details of the previous two days, helping you grasp just how old and endless this ecosystem truly is.
After touching down to a glass of champagne, you will be driven north as you bump across the trails into the private Mara North Conservancy. Your guide will gaze up at the circling vultures before you are taken off the trails and through the bush to find a frenzied battle happening between a group of hyenas and three young male lions. The prize is a fresh gazelle carcass, and you will observe the action until you continue a little further to find a leopard nursing her cub in a distant tree. As you are in a private conservancy, you can drive off the trail for the perfect view.
These relaxed safari rules also provide the opportunity for your mobile tented camp experience. The camp moves every few days and is completely private. Erected in the heart of the wilderness and surrounded by the charms of the plains, your stay in a mobile camp will help to showcase the raw authenticity of the Masai Mara. Small and unobtrusive, the camp is not seen as a threat by the animals; in fact, most wildlife comes closer to observe what's new in the landscape. Zebra is among the many grazers spotted from the tent. Elephants will roam past, buffalo herds are just a hundred meters away, and hardly a moment will go by without hearing the soundtrack of the wildlife of the Masai Mara. Your tent will have a hot bucket shower, a private bathroom with Western toilet, and comfy chairs for you to settle into to watch the action on the Mara plains. A discreet team shares a neighboring tent to provide all of your meals and security throughout your stay with use of traditional Masai methods for keeping the predators away from the camp.
Mara North Conservancy – Private Mara Safari Including Nighttime Game Drive
Continue your immersive Masai Mara safari today as you take game drives that will go off the trail into this private conservancy. The breathtaking sights will keep coming, and it will be rare to go a day without seeing one of the cats on the move. As well as being able to drive off the trail, you can continue your game drives into the night. With a roving spotlight that illuminates the plains, these drives continually bring rare and surprising sights. Perhaps jackal and caracal who have emerged from their hiding places or perhaps leopards as they mate, the female scratching the ground and leaving her scent for the male to follow. It could be lions battling with buffalo, the lionesses upsetting the herd and the big horned buffalo males trying to protect their young. Return to your camp and the safari will continue as silhouetted figures roam alongside as you eat a moonlit dinner.
Ol Kinyei Conservancy – Exclusive Walking Safari Guided by Masai Warriors
For your final two days, you will travel to the northernmost section of the Masai Mara grasslands and the Ol Kinyei Conservancy. There are fewer predators here, although these quieter plains are often used by leopard and cheetah to raise their cubs. A lower number of big cats opens up new safari opportunities and the chance to explore the great grasslands without being in a vehicle. Today it will be a walking safari guided by Masai warriors who have grown up among the mammals. Follow the clues and use all of your senses to interpret how the landscape is speaking to you. Rustling sounds lead you towards impala and gazelle, and by walking slowly, you could be just ten meters away. Footprints will guide you to a tower of giraffe, who lope elegantly through the trees in front of you. By moving patiently and reacting to the animals' behavior, it is possible to walk close to zebra, wildebeest, buffalo, and even an elephant herd. You will have seen all these animals many times before, yet it always feels more special when you are also leaving your footprints in the grass.
Ol Kinyei Conservancy – Horseback Safari Across the Mara
Yours is the only camp in Ol Kinyei Conservancy and only the guests staying here are permitted within the conservancy. It is rare to see another person on the plains, so at this luxurious camp, it is easy to find complete privacy. This morning you will explore on horseback, with the speed of the ride dependent on your experience. For beginners, walking slowly across the plains and passing the different herds is an inspiring experience, a chance to share the landscape with other four-legged mammals. Experienced riders can travel faster and get closer, cantering alongside the zebra and cutting through a scattered herd of wildebeest. In the afternoon, you will have a choice of activities including further horseback safari, a walking safari, or a game drive.
Nairobi – Departure
After a relaxed morning, you will fly back to Nairobi from Ol Kinyei's airstrip. You will touch down in the early afternoon and be met by a driver guide for a 30-minute transfer from Nairobi Wilson to Nairobi International. You will have time to stop for lunch on route before your departure from Kenya.
- Savor the authenticity of the Masai Mara as you spend six days in this world-famous safari destination, going outside of the great migration months to explore without the crowds
- Observe thrilling Big Cat encounters as most predators do not follow the wildebeest migration
- Game drive along the Mara River and be surrounded by hundreds of thousands of mammals, like zebra, wildebeest, elephant, giraffe, buffalo, hippo, and Thomson's gazelle
- Start this 10-day safari in Ol Pejeta Conservancy, where incredible rhino and chimpanzee encounters complement what is seen later in the Masai Mara
- Hot air balloon above the Mara and gaze down on the ungulate-dappled grasslands
- Spend a day walking across the plains with a Masai warrior guide, an experience that enhances the surreal authenticity of the Mara Safari
- Immersive accommodations that keep the animals close make the most of your time on safari, including two nights at a private luxury mobile camp
- Ride alongside the zebra and wildebeest with a day of horseback safari in Ol Kinyei Conservancy, another exclusive experience on the astonishing grasslands
$4,495 per person (excluding international flights)
- In-country transportation
- Some or all activities and tours
- Expert trip planning
- 24x7 support during your trip
Your final trip cost will vary based on your selected accommodations, activities, meals, and other trip elements that you opt to include.
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